TopicsMeeting Brian May!

During his concert tour of Japan (January 25 – 30), we were able to catch up with Dr Brian May; astrophysicist and guitarist for the British rock band, Queen.

Brian May has been very interested in the progress of Hayabusa2, and has produced stereoscopic images of the asteroid Ryugu, as well as sending messages of support to the team. Please take a look at the links below to see these images and messages:

■Ryugu stereoscopic images:
        Global Ryugu:
        High resolution Ryugu:
        Global Ryugu:
■ Messages of support:
        Before the 1st touchdown:
                                                  (Around 1 hour after the beginning of the video)
        Before the 2nd touchdown:

We had invited Dr May to visit the JAXA Sagamihara Campus during his visit to Japan to thank him for his support of the project. However, it proved too difficult to get to and from the Sagamihara campus. We therefore hoped we could meet in Tokyo. The day before our meeting, a message arrived letting us know where we could all meet together.

Project Manager Yuichi Tsuda, Patrick Michel from the project science team and myself (Mission Manager Makoto Yoshikawa) travelled together to meet with Dr May. Patrick is a long-time friend who works on asteroids at the Nice Observatory in France and was the person who put us in contact with Dr May.

As we were guided to the room and the door opened, I felt a moment of tension. But Dr May greeted us with a smile. Project manager Tsuda and myself thanked Dr May for his previous support and he responded that he was paying close attention to the Hayabusa2 mission and had particularly enjoyed seeing the images of asteroid Ryugu.

Photo 1: Commemorative photo with Brian May. From left to right: Patrick Michel, Project Manager Yuichi Tsuda and myself (Mission Manager Makoto Yoshikawa).   [View larger image]
(image credit: Hayabusa2 Project)

We then shared stories about asteroid missions, including Hayabusa2, and talked about the small bodies of the Solar System, such as asteroids and comets. Dr May showed us the stereoscopic photographs of celestial bodies that he had made so far. One of the highlights was the three-dimensional image of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which was explored by the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta Mission. Not only did the image make the comet’s irregularities clearly visible, but the jets extending from the comet were incredibly impressive when viewed in three dimensions. Stories about astronomy and the Universe continued, including tales about viewing a solar eclipse.

The JAXA Space Education Center had also asked if they could include an interview with Dr May for an article in their magazine, ‘Sora no Tobira’ (Gateway to the Sky: : Japanese only). Since this was right before the concert tour, we assumed that we would not be able to get answers to the suggested questions right away. However, Dr May was able to give us replies on the spot, leading to an unexpected interview! Dr May had many interesting stories, such as his interest in Hayabusa’s Itokawa exploration and that no one should have to choose between pursuing science or art, but rather that the two are compatible. The interview will be published in ‘Sora no Tobira’.

Photo 2: Brian May answering the list of questions from the editorial department of ‘Sora no Tobira’.
   [View larger image]   (image credit: Hayabusa2 Project)

About three hours passed while we talked and relaxed, but rarely did the conversation turn to rock or music. However, when Project Manager Tsuda asked about the electric guitar that sat near the wall, Dr May explained that this guitar was for practice and that he always practiced moving his fingers before a concert. Dr May then played a few song extracts for us on the spot!

Finally, Project Manager Tsuda brought out a Hayabusa2 jacket for Dr May and asked if we could take a few photographs together with him wearing the jacket. Dr May was very happy to do so: he is a true superstar but very approachable and friendly.

Photo 3: Photographs with Brian May, where we are all wearing our Hayabusa2 jackets
(image credit: Hayabusa2 project).

We met with Brian May shortly before his series of concerts for the tour in Japan. But between the events, we received a new stereoscopic image. This is the image Hayabusa2 captured while departing from Ryugu (November 13, 2019). On our project website, the images are released as “ Farewell, Ryugu!”. This stereoscopic image was processed using the images near the time of our departure.

Photo 4: Stereoscopic image of “Farewell, Ryugu” created by Brian May.     [View Larger image]
(image credit: JAXA, Chiba Institute of Technology, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST, stereo: Dr Brian May)

The stereoscopic image was received on January 27. That Dr May could manage to create this during the concert tour in Japan, is proof of how much he likes the Universe! Dr May also wrote a note on shikishi (a hard square paper for autographs) for the Hayabusa2 Project:

Photo 5: The shikishi from Brian May, addressed to the Hayabusa2 Project.    [View larger image]
(image credit:Hayabusa2 project)

Unlike the energetic Brian May we see on stage, the Brian May we met is a calm and curious astrophysicist. I now wish I had asked more about Queen, rock music, and the Bohemian Rhapsody movie, but when we talked, the focus had been all about space.

It has been nearly 50 years since the debut of Queen, which remains extremely popular. But I was able to meet Brian May, who loves the Universe and the Earth and is part of the animal welfare movement, all while remaining energetic and active in his music.

So、Let's ROCK ON!

※The article, photos and images published here have been approved by Brian May.

Makoto Yoshikawa(Hayabusa2 Project)